News is breaking today that the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice has just released a 400 page report which concludes the internal investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.
Tomorrow Congress will listen to the current IG Michael Horowitz as he present key findings during a Congressional Oversight hearing.
Federal agents and prosecutors in Phoenix ignored public safety concerns and were primarily responsible for the botched effort to infiltrate weapons-smuggling rings in the operation dubbed “Fast and Furious,” according to a report released Wednesday by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The long-awaited report also directed sharp criticism at senior officials from the Justice Department and its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington for lax oversight of the attempt to block the flow of weapons to Mexico’s violent drug cartels. Many of the weapons later turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including one in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.
The inspector general’s report recommended that the Justice Department take disciplinary action against 14 current and former officials from the department and ATF. Among them were Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and former acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson.
Horowitz wrote in the report,
“The inspector general did not find persuasive evidence that any supervisor in Phoenix at either the U.S. attorney’s office or ATF raised serious questions or concerns about the risk to public safety posed by the continuing firearms purchases or by the delay in arresting individuals who were engaging in the trafficking. This failure reflects a significant lack of oversight and urgency by both ATF and the U.S. attorney’s office.”
“Fast and Furious received little or no supervision by ATF headquarters despite its connections to a dangerous narcotics cartel in Mexico, the serious risk it created to public safety in the United States and Mexico and its potential impact on the country’s relationship with Mexico.”
Apparently Horowitz didn’t pay attention to the numerous ATF field officers involved which is highly documented in Katie Pavlich’s book on the scandal.
Attorney General Eric Holder, apparently doing a victory dance in the end zone after the release of the report, which basically claims he had no knowledge of Fast and Furious despite his conflicting testimony to the contrary. The report reads,
Attorney General Holder told the OIG that he did not hear of Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011, and was not aware of concerns with the tactics in the investigation until February. He said that he visited Sen. Grassley in the Senator’s office on January 31, 2011, and Sen. Grassley handed him two letters that referenced Project Gunrunner. Holder told us that he became familiar with the phrase “Fast and Furious” after visiting with Sen. Grassley.
We found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed Holder about Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011. Melson stated that he did not inform Holder about the investigation, and Burke said he did not recall doing so.231 Melson also stated that the Department was not involved in formulating any of the tactical decisions in the investigation. Holder said that Melson did not identify to him any problems about Operation Fast and Furious in 2009 and 2010.
Our investigation did not identify evidence that contradicted Holder’s statements to us regarding his knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious and the use of “gun walking” tactics in that investigation. As we describe below, we identified information regarding Operation Fast and Furious that reached the Office of the Attorney General in 2010 but not Attorney General Holder himself. However, we found no evidence that this information included the inappropriate tactics at issue in Operation Fast and Furious.
In fact, the report even claims that the numerous memos intended for the eyes of Eric Holder, regarding Fast and Furious, never made it to him.
We found that the Offices of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General received 11 weekly reports in 2010 from ATF, DOJ’s Criminal Division, and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) that referred to Operation Fast and Furious by name. For example, six of seven NDIC reports included among several other entries a summary of the support that NDIC had provided Operation Fast and Furious. The summary, which was identical in six of the reports except for certain dates, stated that Celis-Acosta and the straw purchasers in Operation Fast and Furious were responsible for trafficking 1,500 firearms to Mexican drug cartels.232 Attorney General Holder told the OIG that he did not believe that he reviewed these reports at the time that his office received them and that his staff did not bring them to his attention. Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler stated that he had no recollection of having reviewed any weekly report concerning Operation Fast and Furious or of his staff highlighting such information for his review. We found no evidence that these weekly reports were forwarded to the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General.
Talk about taking the American people for fools and apparently we are just going to let them get away with it too.
Holder issued statement today in regards to the “findings” of the report. Below is the statement in part:
“I have reviewed the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious and the key conclusions are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now:
The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006;
The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and
The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it.
Holder said that he is now going to move on this information and hold those accountable the IG’s report pointed out:
“Based upon the information in the OIG report and other related information, I am also announcing additional personnel changes today.
“First, Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director at ATF, has retired from the Department, effective immediately. Ken has served the Department in several important roles for over thirty years, including as a United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and more recently as an advisor on forensic science issues. I want to thank him for his dedication and service to the Department over the last three decades.
“Second, those individuals within ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, whom the OIG report found to have been responsible for designing, implementing or supervising Operation Fast and Furious have been referred to the appropriate entities for review and consideration of potential personnel actions. Consistent with the requirements of the Privacy Act, the Department is prohibited from revealing any additional information about these referrals at this time.
Holder also went on to state:
“Finally, I have accepted the resignation of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, a longtime career prosecutor who most recently served in the Criminal Division where he led our violent and organized crime, computer crimes and intellectual property enforcement efforts. Jason has dedicated much of his career to fighting violent crime and has led highly successful efforts around the country in this effort. The American people are safer because of his work. His commitment to the Department has been unwavering, and I deeply appreciate his 15 years of distinguished service here at Main Justice as well as in Baltimore and New York.
While Holder is running off smiling to put the little guys on the hook, one has to wonder if the report is accurate and Holder didn’t know anything, what was the need for Barack Obama to invoke executive privilege?
Darrell Issa, Chariman of the House Oversight Committee issued a response to the report:
“The Inspector General’s report confirms findings by Congress’ investigation of a near total disregard for public safety in Operation Fast and Furious. Contrary to the denials of the Attorney General and his political defenders in Congress, the investigation found that information in wiretap applications approved by senior Justice Department officials in Washington did contain red flags showing reckless tactics and faults Attorney General Eric Holder’s inner circle for their conduct.
“Former Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer who heads the Criminal Division, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, and Holder’s own Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson are all singled out for criticism in the report. It’s time for President Obama to step in and provide accountability for officials at both the Department of Justice and ATF who failed to do their jobs. Attorney General Holder has clearly known about these unacceptable failures yet has failed to take appropriate action for over a year and a half.” Schmaler should be fired and Congress should investigate the cozy friendship between the Department of Justice and Media Matters immediately.